our first two weeks back

Crazy that we’ve only been back in Cambodia for TWO WEEKS. Feels a little bit like two months, maybe two years. Seems like just yesterday (and a lifetime ago) that I was writing a post about our first two weeks in America.

If you haven’t kept up with us (and, really, who has time to keep up with everyone?), you might have missed that we got fired from our jobs here (additional details here), and found a new place to live pretty quickly (Part 1, Part 2).

And now you’re caught up. And, if you follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you know bits and pieces of what’s gone on from Tuesday, August 9 (when we landed in Cambodia) until Tuesday, August 23 (today), but, as always, here are LOTS MORE WORDS (if you like that sort of thing).

First week in summary: Subdued welcome at the airport. Fought back tears. Some jet lag (but not bad). Upon arrival immediately began packing up the house (left everything in our suitcases). Our friend, Reece, surprised us by coming from Phnom Penh to help. One day of house-hunting (that felt like an eternity). Find “the one” that evening. Sign one-year lease the next day. Move in the day after that (in less than 2 hours and for $20). Start unpacking. Happy reunion at church. More unpacking. Kids come. End of first week.

Week 2: Figuring out boundaries with kiddos coming over. It’s been mostly good. They come in small clusters (5-10 kids). One hour most mornings. One hour most afternoons. We go play with them in evenings (until it gets dark at 6:30pm–every day year round–boo!) It’s good to spend more one-on-one time with them. There’s freedom to play, to learn, to run around, whatever they want to do.

We want to make sure they know 1.) they need to go to school. 2.) Punlok Thmey is still up and running, and they can go there to learn. 3.) our house is just a place to come hang out in their free time.

Some of them say they’re not going to Punlok Thmey anymore because it’s wal-wal (crazy). While we were gone, there were teams from America that came and put on programs for the kids. They went out and got over 100 kids from the slums and surrounding areas and brought them in. Over 200 kids total. Great for outreach, for finding kiddos who might be sexually exploited, but maybe not an environment conducive to learning. Punlok Thmey has been wanting to shift focus from kids in this village to kids who are truly at-risk for exploitation. This might work well for all of us. We’ll see how it all pans out.

We’re praying about our future ministry plans. We have ideas. Lots. Gabe wants to meet creative people, train them, offer them opportunities and resources to make a living for themselves. Business as mission.

I have a heart for community and helping young people pursue God’s kingdom dreams for their lives. One sweet girl (15), our neighbor where we used to live, has accepted a position as my Khmer teacher. Two hours a day, Monday-Friday. Her family can really use the money, and I reeeeeally need some discipline and help learning Khmer. I have dreams of hiring other young people (getting sponsors maybe?) to learn things they need to know in order to make a living, start a ministry, whatever. (Stay tuned!)

We had dinner with our awesome pastor and his wife and caught up on each other’s lives and dreamed about the future together. We’ll definitely be getting more involved at church–it’s an answer to prayer for our whole fam. We meet with an English-speaking cell group on Tuesday nights, and they’ve quickly become like family. Sooooo thankful for their love and support and prayers and laughs and prophetic words of awesomeness.

We will not be starting our own center for sexually-exploited kids (many of you have asked if we would be). Our hearts have been burdened for a long time for those kiddos, and we will go back to helping them like we did before: praying, raising awareness, raising finances, supporting those on the front lines–those who are trained to recognize abuse and help stop it.

We remain friends with our former co-workers at HPC, both here and in Phnom Penh. The staff here came to visit us on Sunday (they were in PP for almost 2 weeks). A teensy bit awkward at first but mostly awesome. We go to church with some of them, and our dear, sweet “daughter” Channorm came over for dinner tonight, and we’ll stay close.

As far as the director and the Board go, there are still a lot of hurt feelings that we’ll continue to work through. We have a lot of questions still–like why is it okay for other staff to live in the house but our family couldn’t? We don’t know. As soon as we get some printer ink, we’re signing an agreement that says we will all be kind and respectful and not say disparaging things about each other. That’s kind of a no-brainer. We have no desire to say disparaging things. Just working through grief and confusion and asking God each day to help keep bitterness away. And forgiveness has been kind of a daily thing.

We also want to do the right thing and examine our own hearts and attitudes and words and actions and see what role we played in all of this. It’s easy to just cry “victim” but was there anything we need to change/confess/make right? Sigh. Hard work.

We hope and pray for trust to be rebuilt so that we might even be able to go back to confidently raising support for the organization. We love the staff and believe in so much of what they’re doing. Just asking God to move and work toward continued resolution/restoration.

Our prayer is that someday we will be able to say that we absolutely, truly have ZERO hard feelings toward anyone, and maybe our friendships with the director and the board can even be restored.

Anyway.

Gabe has been walking for about an hour every morning, hoping to get healthy and also meet some really awesome people (he’s sooooo good at that). He’s also been playing soccer with guys from church on Sunday and Monday nights. So much fun to watch. Besides little frustrations (like getting internet installed AGAIN), he LOVES living in Cambodia. Still pinch myself at that.

The girls are hanging out with kids, reading good books, teaching themselves guitar and keyboard, helping me with chores, cooking, and getting involved at church. (and bickering a lot–help us, Jesus.) We’re also navigating life as parents of a teenager with a boyfriend (who would spend every waking moment with him if she could). (Pray for us.) (Thankfully, we love him like a son. He’s awesome.)

I’ve been working on an e-book. My dream is to make thousands of dollars and be able to pay for a 20th anniversary trip to Italy and Israel (pilgrimage for me, photographer’s dream trip for him). January 3, 2018 will be 20 years of marriage for us, and we’ve never gone anywhere or done anything special to celebrate in all that time. And, by golly, we WILL do something fabulous for our 20th because IT’S A MIRACLE that we are still married and love each other like we do. (I have never made thousands of dollars from an ebook, BUT A GIRL CAN DREAM.)

In other news, I’m going to learn to drive a moto next week. And we’re going to buy me my own in September. (eek!)

We started Juice Plus as a family. I know lots of you have been taking it for YEARS and raving about it. I didn’t know my brother and his wife took it. When we visited them right before we came back, we signed up under them (paid for 2 adults, got 2 kiddos free, and they’re sharing). I probably won’t talk about it much, but if you’re interested in it, let me know. Our purchases support my brother’s fam, and your purchase would support ours. Excited to do something for our health!

ARE YOU STILL READING? Just a little bit more.

It’s hot here. 100% humidity. Rains at some point just about every day. We love our house. It’s really perfect. A few things wrong like leaks in the ceiling and floor (adds to the “charm,” right?) but it has been an AMAZING space to invite people into already. (Thanks, God.)

Thanks for your love and prayers and encouragement. MUCH LOVE to you all.

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